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           Pandemics and sport simply don’t mix.                                                                                                                                                                     By Tim Mottram

           THE WI

                                                                                                                                                                                                              on sport

                           hat makes          top, representing the absolute      With the closing down of                         Players within the hub were       fold in 2021. Another reason     being applied across the world.
                           sport so great     pinnacle. At the base are        most leagues in early 2020,                         tested regularly and had          why these smaller clubs cannot   The ‘Survive, Revive, Thrive’
                           - the coming       the grassroots clubs, where      the first of these was cut off at                   to follow a strict hygiene        absorb the blow is because       program is pointedly focused
              Wtogether                       millions of people around the    a stroke. And with no matches                       procedure. This enabled rugby     they do not have their own       on the wellbeing and health of
            in communities, the huge          world meet on the weekend.       to broadcast, there was only so                     league to handle the crisis       facilities and rely on rental    the members of small clubs,
            spectacles and atmosphere,        Each of these layers has an      long the companies involved                         more effectively than AFL, for    agreements which take cash       will prop up existing clubs
            the team building aspects         economic imperative which        could keep paying. Advertisers                      example.                          reserves they can no longer      and will also create a system
            - all had to go the minute        has been severely affected by    would obviously back away                              The overall effect of the crisis   muster.                      whereby they can start to
            people started getting sick       Covid.                           with no matches televised.                          means that if many sports are       A major reason why this        accumulate their own facilities.
            back in early 2020. Apart                                          Therefore, most of the global                       to survive this unprecedented     development is so troubling        Australia’s NSW government
            from the health toll that            The true health,              elite level leagues had to get                      event, they will need assistance   is the impact that sport has    anticipated the re-opening of
            Covid has had, sport at all        social and financial            underway soon after the initial                     from governments. Europe has      on mental and physical           sports last year with a fund
            levels has reeled, taking          cost of the pandemic            stages of the various global                        done much to help sporting        wellbeing, especially in youth.   called the Grassroots Sports
            loss after financial loss, as      will not be known for           lockdowns, because they                             entities from the richest to the   Britain signals that 2.3% fewer   Fund, where a one-off payment
            accommodations have been           years to come                   effectively had no other option.                    smallest. Aware of the social     young people are engaging        was made to each of the 12,500
            made and contingencies                                             Crowds were naturally not                           importance of sport, many         in youth sport since the         eligible clubs across the state.
            sought.                                                            permitted to congregate which                       governments have created          start of the crisis, though the   Further grants were made
               The true health, social          The global value of sport      led to the somewhat eerie                           staggered or tax free periods     number up until the easing of    to bigger organisations to
            and financial cost of the         rose in successive years until   experience of hearing the yells                     for many clubs. For example,      lockdown was much higher.        ensure that people could still
            pandemic will not be clear for    2018, where it was estimated     of players and coach echoing                        in The Netherlands clubs were     As participation rates drop, it is   participate.
            years to come. As clubs and       to be valued at US$471 billion.   into vast silence. Eventually,                     supported for three months        expected that levels of obesity    There have been a series of
            competitions from the elite       This plateaued according to      crowd noise was piped through                       in 2020, while Sweden and         and depression will rise.        lessons meted out over the last
            super clubs down to grassroot     some experts, where rising       to viewers to “enhance” their                       Ireland granted millions to                                        16 months. Covid has shown
            teams reel from their own         ticket prices and better access   experience, but this was                           offset the lack of income from       Covid has shown               organisers and fans that sport
            particular challenges, the        to televised matches took        merely an augmentation for                          normal revenues. These funds       organisers and                  is actually rather vulnerable,
            impact on members and fans        the heat out of the rise, but    the people at home and the                          have been shared amongst all       fans that sport is              at both ends of the financial
            has been immense.                 it can be safely assumed         grounds stayed silent.                              sporting organisations, from       actually rather                 spectrum. Changes need to be
               Sport provides social          that the upward trend would         In order for sport to be                         the top down.                                                      made to ensure that all levels
            cohesion. In a way, the wellness   have continued indefinitely.    played, some competitions did                          Grassroots sport across the     vulnerable, at                  can be made more durable
            aspect is a side benefit. Sport   The bulk of this cash is of      better than others. Australia’s                     world is in crisis because of the   both ends of                   against the risks of future
            provides an instant shortcut to   course situated at the top of    NRL gained plenty of credit                         lockdowns. Most of these are       the financial                   pandemics or disasters. Simply
            community. It is so ingrained     the pyramid, where each of       with the hubs system, which                         funded by their own members        spectrum.                       living hand-to-mouth has been
            in all aspects of society that    the elite sporting federations   was brought in with player                          and through community-based                                        the standard approach for too
            any shut down could never be      deals in huge amounts. They      safety foremost. This system                        initiatives, such as raffles and    The English Football           long. It is time sport thinks
            long-term.                        receive this money from three    created six safe areas where                        events. These of course require   Association has promised to      about the future in terms other
               Essentially, sport is          sources: match-day revenue,      several teams shared a home                         participation, so are off limits.   channel £180 million back into   than the next home match or
            a pyramid where the               broadcasting rights and          ground and where a form of                          In the UK, it is estimated that   grassroots clubs over the next   shirt deal.
            international federations sit on   commercial sponsorships.        exposure bubble was created.                        25% of all grassroots clubs will   four years, in a program that is

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